Inflammation & Nutrition Medicine to Overcome Stress

by Trace on January 11, 2010

I interviewed Blake Graham, Clinical Nutritionist and Director of Nutritional Healing, Western Australia on Nutrition Healing – Vitamins, Minerals, Fatty Acids and Mental Health. (Chapter 4 in my book How To Overcome Stress Naturally)

I asked Blake to tell me about his background and Nutritional Healing.

“I became passionate about the role diet can play in our health 10 years ago. My interests have since expanded to a wider range of health areas, e.g. the role of toxic chemicals, mind-body medicine, etc. I acquired a B.Sc (Honours) in nutrition from Curtin University, ACT, and did my honours thesis researching nutritional and metabolic aspects of chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS).


Nutritional medicine is the therapeutic use of nutrients and diet to treat health problems.

Various aspects of diet influence virtually every contributing factor in chronic illness. Diet can be seen as one therapeutic tool to modulate the mechanisms behind disease.

Mechanisms of illness modulated by diet:

i. Inflammation

ii. Oxidative Stress

iii. Intestinal micro-organism balance

iv. Detoxification

v. Hormone/neurochemical balance

vi. Intake of toxic chemicals

vii. Immune function

viii. Circadian rhythm

ix. Food intolerances

x. Genetic expression “

In my BLOG over the next few weeks I will go into a bit more detail on these 10 areas. Starting with Inflammation.


What is Inflammation?

arthritishandsInflammation is defined as a localized reaction of tissue to irritation, injury, or infection. Symptoms of inflammation include pain, swelling, red coloration to the area, and sometimes loss of movement or function. We commonly think of inflammation as the painful component of arthritis. Inflammation is also a component of chronic diseases such as heart disease and strokes.

When we think of inflammation we tend to think of redness/swelling associated with acute injuries/infections and issues like dermatitis and colitis.

However chronic inflammation is probably associated in one degree or another with just about every chronic illness.

Diabetes, obesity, heart disease, Alzheimer’s disease, major depression, ME/CFS and autism are just a few examples of illnesses which involve inflammation.

Diet is one of the key regulators of inflammation and our modern diet is highly pro-inflammatory.

Foods that Increase Inflammation

Loading up on junk foods, high-fat meats, sugar and fast foods will increase inflammation in your body.

This is partially due to the unhealthy fats used in preparing and processing these foods, especially trans fats and satuhotdograted fats.

Processed meats such as lunch meats, hot dogs and sausages contain chemicals such as nitrites that are associated with increased inflammation and chronic disease.

Diets high in sugar have also been associated with inflammation, obesity and chronic disease such as diabetes.

You probably already have a reasonable diet by normal standards and compared to most people, but diet can always be improved upon.

Unlike most treatments dietary optimisation is cheap and what goes into your mouth is something you have complete control of, as opposed to your exposure to environmental chemicals and stressors, so it is something you should take complete advantage of.

Fatty acid balance

The balance of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids in particular are major inflammation mediators.

Over consumption of omega-6 fats leads to the excess production of pro-inflammatory eicosanoids whereas omega-3 Omega3Seedsfatty acids produce anti-inflammatory eicosanoids.

The ratio of N6/N3 fatty acids has gradually gone up and up over the past few generations due to changing dietary habits.

One of the key factors leading to this change is the types of oils we eat in packaged foods and in cooking. Packaged foods typically contain oils which are high in omega-6 fats.

Foods containing oils high in omega-6 fats should be avoided and never be used in cooking.

Extra virgin olive oil is the healthiest oil for cooking. It is not only low in omega-6 fatty acids its predominant fat, oleic acid, and phytonutrients such as squalene are specifically anti-inflammatory in nature.


Avocado is another example of a healthy fat to include in your diet.

Visit for an extensive list of oils and their Omega 6 content.


Eating refined sugar produces a surge of insulin and stress hormones (cortisol and adrenalin). This both puts a great stress on our hormonal system and promotes inflammation. Sugar is also nutritionally devoid and displaces other nutrient rich foods.

Sugar has little satiety value and high energy content, so promotes weight gain. Sugar also promotes a blood sugar rollercoaster, leading to blood sugar excesses and deficits (hypoglycemia) as well as sugar cravings and addiction. Sugar also feeds intestinal yeast and certain problematic bacteria, worsening gut ecology balance. This is just a few of the many deleterious effects of refined sugar consumption.icecream

Avoid refined sugars (including soft drinks, fruit juices, cordial, honey, jam, lollies, molasses, maple syrup, corn syrup, brown sugar, candy, etc.) and foods which contain refined sugars (most breakfast cereals, muesli bars, ice cream, chocolate, biscuits, cookies, cakes, etc.).

Antioxidant rich fruits

Natures most perfect fruits are berries. Berries are the foods most rich in antioxidants and possess anti-inflammatory properties. They are also the fruits lowest in total sugar content and best tolerated by those with fructose malabsorption. Fructose malabsorption.


Have a daily serving of antioxidant rich fruits. Buying frozen berries is generally the easiest way to achieve this. Avoid fruit juices and dried fruits as they provide excess levels of fructose and exacerbate intestinal bacterial/yeast balance, among other issues.

Dark coloured anti-inflammatory plants foodsginger

The dark pigments in plant foods contain an array of phytochemicals which have a long list of therapeutic effects. One noteworthy outcome is reducing inflammation, both by direct anti-inflammatory action and by genetic modulation of genes relating to inflammation. ie broccoli, cabbage, carrots, leeks, spinach, ginger, garlic, parsley, turmeric, almonds, green tea

For a complete list of some key anti-inflammatory foods go to

Whole grains

Whenever consuming grain products (cereals, breads, pastas, rice, etc.) always choose whole grains. Refined (white) grain products are nutrient depleted and promote blood sugar/insulin imbalances. Consuming refined carbohydrates is also pro-inflammatory.

Visit for an extensive table comparing the nutrient content of whole grain rice to white rice.

Whole grains are also lower in glycemic index and glycemic load, which is a measure of how much a food raises a person’s blood sugar levels. Lower GI/GL is associated with more stable blood sugar, lower appetite and lower levels of inflammation.

Essentially, there is a huge difference between whole grains and refined grain products.


Eat fish at least twice a week. Why? Because it overflows with two key omega-3 fatty acids, eicosapentaenoic and docosahexaenoic (EPA and DHA for short), that are potent anti-inflammatories.

Good sources are fatty fish such as mackerel, salmon, trout, sardines, and tuna.  salmon

Canned tuna is fine, but make sure it’s packed in water. Otherwise, the omega-3s leach into the surrounding oil.

You do need to watch out for toxins in fish, though, especially if you’re in a high-risk category.

Women who are either pregnant or hoping to be should avoid shark, swordfish, king mackerel (a different species from regular mackerel), and tilefish, all of which harbor potentially dangerous levels of mercury, which can be damaging to their developing fetus. (Nursing mothers and young children should avoid these fish, too.)

Natural Anti-Inflammatories

StretchingRunnerNatural anti-inflammatories include rest, light exercise, weight maintenance and stretching.

Take a walk outside in the fresh air. Take it easy. Walk with a friend and stop to gently stretch with a tree!


Avoid Pro-Inflammatory Foods

Pro-inflammatory foods will increase inflammation, increase your pain from the inflammation and may also raise your risk for chronic disease.

Be Mindful and choose fresh produce when you can & Support your local market gardeners. Start 2010 with a plan for fresh nutritious fruit for you and your family so that your body is not stressed and you may prevent more serious mental or physical health concerns.


To find a health practitioner trained in nutrition and environmental medicine go to:

ACNEM (Australasian College of Nutritional and Environmental Medicine)

ACNEM provides a service to put members of the public in touch with medical doctors, dentists and other practitioners in Australia and New Zealand who have graduated from the ACNEM Primary Course. There are also some medical doctors and dentists on the referral list in other countries – Malaysia, Hong Kong and South Africa.

Next week we will look into how Diet can influence Oxidative Stress (imbalance of protective and damaging anti-oxidants in the body) to help you overcome stress in your body naturally.

Let me know how you simplify your everyday eating thereby giving yourself more energy and vitality. I would love to hear from you…


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